By Erica Tew, CPRW
Recently, the question of tattoos and piercings at the interview arose and we debated what was appropriate. We stuck with the conservative approach as general guidance: always cover up best you can in a professional outfit, and possibly remove any facial piercings. The goal is to be remembered for what you said, not your appearance.
However, there is another layer to this subject I would like to address. Before I delve into it, I want to share a few ground rules. I do not think under any circumstances should you show a tattoo that is religious, political, or offensive (lewd imagery, foul language, or gory/violent) in any way. I also think facial piercings should be on the smaller side, to not take too much attention away from your words.
Personally, I am a fan of tattoos and piercings. I think the creativity and skill involved in a well-done tattoo can be really beautiful. I have a few of my own and have even weighed the interview appearance question on whether or not an industrial piercing or a nose ring should be removed. In my conservative workplace, a small nose ring is becoming very common, but I still tend to cover the industrial with my hair down.
Depending on your company’s culture and attire, tattoos or piercings may be acceptable, or even welcomed. For example, there is a common belief that you should never trust a tattoo artist that doesn’t have any tattoos of their own. It happens, but it is really difficult for an artist to make it without some of their own. Places that typically do not mind tattoos could be laborious jobs such as warehouses or shipyards. In retail, many shops welcome their staff to be creativity and display their own artwork; not minding tattoos or piercings.
What you may not realize though, is many of our corporate sectors are tolerant of tattoos and piercings as well. Some universities where you may be working independently can be accepting. Small businesses, startups, and other employers can be a mix- but my advice is, when possible, to simply walk into the building before applying. See how the employees and managers dress. Note any tattoos or piercings and reflect manager norms in your own interview attire. Even if the employees have visible tattoos or piercings, but the managers are more conservative, you are safest with dressing on the conservative side for your interview. Some companies may not mind tattoos or piercings on employees, but when promoting an employee, they may prefer someone who more closely reflects executive style choices. Dress for the job you want, at the company you want.
Overall, researching the company culture will be most important when determining your interview appearance. Although tattoos and piercings are increasingly accepted, many companies still want employees to reflect their corporate brand at all times, and a tattoo may clash with that brand. If you really love a company and aren’t sure of their policy, it’s best to err on the side of caution, and cover up. If you have further questions, please leave a comment below!
When you make it to the interview, you want to be on point. Prepare answers ahead of time that show situations, actions you took, and results to respond to many behavioral questions. Research the company: the company culture, mission, news, and services, can help you relate your skills in a way that shows benefit to the hiring manager. The interview will go even smoother if you follow this advice:
1. Silence your cell phone
Most people will say to shut off your cell phone or leave it in the car. However, if you use it to schedule appointments, you may want it handy if asked for a follow up appointment or date for a second interview. If your phone does go off, it’s not an immediate “fail.” It all depends on how you recover. Don’t look at who is calling; just shut it down and apologize immediately to continue.
Sure, interviews make everyone nervous. It may be a combination of nerves and adrenaline, but researching and practice will help build your confidence before the interview. If you’re too worried about how you sound or are constantly wondering if you relayed everything you wanted to say, your face may not read that you’re someone who is excited about the opportunity. Take a moment, breathe, and smile right when you shake hands. If this is a phone interview, smile as you talk as well. Your voice transforms when you’re smiling and makes you sound more enthusiastic and engaged. Plus, everyone likes being around a friendly person. Would you want to work everyday alongside someone who constantly keeps a serious face on?
3. Don’t talk money or benefits
Unless specifically asked by the interviewer, do not be the first to bring up pay or benefits. Save these questions for the job offer. The interview is a business meeting where you and the employer are trying to see if you will be a quality match for the position. Show that you can do the job and you want to work for the company. It can be a major turn off if a candidate doesn’t use this time well, but rather just asks how much they would make. If the interviewer does bring this information up first, research average salaries from Department of Labor’s Labor Market Information website. Always provide a range for salary to avoid being too expensive or underselling yourself. For more information on Salary Negotiations, see George’s post.
4. Speak clearly and avoid the “Yeahs, Ummms, and Likes”
If you need to briefly pause and think about your answer before responding, take the time to do it. The interviewer may need you to be a representative of the company, and depending on how you present yourself, speech included, your casual way of speaking may be off-putting. “Umms” and “Like” are fillers that can be reduced by practicing your answers beforehand. I am guilty of the “Yeah” abuse, but in an interview, the answer is always “Yes”.
5. Dress Appropriately
You can never go wrong with a button-down/blouse and dress pants/conservative skirt. This rule can be modified from company to company. Some company cultures prefer very professional attire. If that’s the case, then suit jackets and ties should be worn. Everyone can benefit from having at least one great suit in their closet. If the office is more casual, perhaps replace the dress pants for some khakis. Research the company and try to match what the manager would be wearing. Ask ahead of time if you think you may be touring any facilities that may require boots, a hardhat, or similar special circumstances. In general, I don’t know of a time where shorts, flipflops, sweatpants, anything low-cut, or anything revealing could be considered acceptable interview attire. Try on your outfit ahead of time to ensure proper fit, and remember: you want to be noticed for what you said, not what you wore. For more on this topic, check out Uriela’s blog post about appropriate interview attire.
If you have questions or concerns about these suggestions or anything related to your upcoming interview, please drop us a line in the comments below!
[All gifs thanks to giphy!]
If you’re broadening your job search and open to relocation, you may be applying to places hundreds (or thousands!) of miles away. In these cases, it is not always financially possible to meet and have an in-person interview. Skype interviews are becoming more common for long distance candidates. If you have yet to participate in one, here are a few tips to consider-
1. Have a professional username– Just like an email address and voice mail greeting; keep your username simple and professional. If you are embarrassed to share your Skype ID with an employer, create a new registration and change your username.
2. Ensure your equipment is functioning – Skype has many test features for you to see if your microphone’s quality will be effective during the interview. Check to see if you can transmit both audio and images. Test this at least a few days ahead of time with a colleague in case you find out your microphone needs to be replaced, or any various other technical glitches. You can expect technical glitches during the interview, but preparation and practice ahead of time will save you some of the hassle.
If you are new to Skype, I recommended just getting started and talking to a friend or family member. Get used to seeing yourself in the corner of your screen if using a webcam is entirely new to you. It can be distracting, but remember- eye contact still counts! Practice looking towards the camera lens when you reply to your friend, and not right at their image (or with your eyes down, looking at your own image.) This way, you will know you can maintain eye contact during the interview.
For the technical aspect of testing the functionality of your equipment and hardware, I recommend browsing WikiHow for most issues. Skype’s website also has tutorials and FAQ sections for reference.
3. Close all other programs– Ctrl+Shift+Esc on the keyboard is a quick way to open the Task Manager. Close unnecessary programs so Skype can smooth and quickly.
4. Proper lighting and plain surroundings– Nothing is worse than the creepy factor of a low-lit room while you are Skype-ing. Play with light sources or lamps available to you and see what set up produces the best lighting so the interviewer can see you. Having plain surroundings will also help them focus on you alone, and not your personal items, posters, or shelves filled with collectibles or family photos. If you are using a PC and it is too difficult to move these items, try putting up a curtain or backdrop as a quick fix.
“A cluttered background may distract your audience, not to mention send the wrong idea about your organizational skills. Also, rid the area of personal items- no need to share too much information. A blank or neutral background is best, with a well-organized desktop.”
-Forbes “7 Ways to Nail a Skype Interview” April 2013
5. Treat this like an in-person or telephone interview– Schedule a block of time without any distractions and in a quite environment. Have a glass of water and your company research notes nearby for reference. Dress professionally and practice your previously prepared interview responses. Most importantly, take a deep breath, smile, and show your excitement for this potential opportunity!